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Summarizing and Quoting: English 110
Transcript of Summarizing and Quoting: English 110
Summarizing and Quoting
TS/IS 30-51 English 110 Scott J. Wilson
Summarizing is “central to your arsenal of basic moves” (30).
As we need to make strong claims, we must summarize other writers’ points accurately and efficiently.
Sometimes we avoid summary because it appears “lazy”.
Other times, we fear losing our voice amidst another’s words.
Their Point Is…
We often summarize too much because we are not confident in our argument.
Other times, we are confused about what we are trying to express.
It is important to have a clear vision of your argument before you begin to summarize supporting or opposing arguments.
The best summaries balance the author’s original intent with “[your] own focus” (31).
While we use others’ arguments to make our own more convincing, the actual summary should appear without bias.
Don’t worry, your point of view will frame the summary.
“The ability to temporarily suspend one’s own convictions is a hallmark of good actors…as a writer, when you play the believing game well, readers should not be able to tell whether you agree or disagree with the ideas you are summarizing” (31).
Your Best Switzerland Impression:
Neutrality is Key
In this passage, Mark Lewis discusses how Walter White's (from
) cancer diagnosis turns him into a selfish person as his value as a person is diminished.
Bias Undermining Credibility
Do not reveal bias in your summary:
Mark Lewis, in “From Victim to Victor: 'Breaking Bad' and the Dark Potential of the Terminally Empowered,” misses the point about White's legacy, which is important to a reading of the show as a contemporary version of the American dream. He intentionally does not mention how Walt's nightmare is the nightmare of many Americans who lack proper health insurance.
How Not to Summarize
Mark Lewis, in “From Victim to Victor: 'Breaking Bad' and the Dark Potential of the Terminally Empowered,” argues that
White's cancer diagnosis leads him to be selfish instead of inspiring him to want to make his family proud and leave a legacy.
A Better Summary (without bias)
Summaries that are too short can undermine your ability to convince.
For example, using the same Lewis passage, a summary that consists of “Lewis dismisses Walt's reason for his immoral behaviour” is too vague.
On the other hand, summarizing too much can leave your reader wondering why you’re mentioning so many minor, insignificant parts of the argument.
For example, a summary that ends up repeating many of the points Lewis makes in his article is problematic. Your summary should be much shorter than the original text.
(Summary) Size Matters
After outlining your own argument in detail, always return to the novel (primary source) and your articles (secondary sources) to maximize proper context and accuracy.
Know your thesis well, so you do not stray from your original intent when summarizing from an article or book.
A critic’s words are meant to enhance your argument, not direct it.
For example, in our proper summary example, we understand Lewis’ point, identify the theme it relates to in our own argument, and we incorporate it into our essay seamlessly.
Maintain Focus and Direction
I cannot express this enough: have a clear thesis and direction for your essay in order to avoid a
Any evidence and/or summary of plot or critical argument must be necessary to your argument.
As such, be explicit in:
1. Introducing the summary
2. Summarizing accurately
3. Explaining the significance of that summary and how it enhances your already-established argument.
Note: this is especially true for plot details from the novel.
I’m Allergic to “List Summaries”
“Once a summary enters your text, you should think of it as joint property—reflecting both the source you are summarizing and your own views” (37).
Whether the writer of your secondary source likes it or not, he/she entered the academic discussion and can be called upon to support your points at any time.
Because you don’t want a nasty email, a cease and desist letter, a punch, or because you don’t want to look foolish, take time to summarize their views as accurately and fairly as possible.
In addition, your professor knows much of the material written about John Green and Amy Hempel etc. and you want a good mark.
Like Swans: Together Forever
When we include many summaries or quotes in a paper, the language we use to introduce them can be very repetitive.
As such, avoid repeating “bland formulas” like “they think,” “she believes,” and “he says”.
Instead, capture the author’s intent or mood.
For example, use language like: emphasizes, urges, argues, suggests, posits, complains, protests against, insists, asserts, observes etc.
Note: See pages 39-40 for more summarizing signal verb templates.
Don’t be boring; use appropriate signal verbs
Here, we have summarized the author’s main points without directly quoting.
Next, we can bring in our argument in response to Lewis' beliefs.
*Note: optional use of the first person. Without it, the sentiment remains the same. Remember, only use it in the intro and conclusion.
Tips to Avoid Treating Orphaned Quotes Badly
Only really mean people would treat orphans badly.
A summary's fine, but a direct quote is often better.
Provides legitimacy and credibility to your writing.
Quotes function as evidence or proof; this is particularly important in the social sciences where we do not have statistics, experiment results and other forms of quantitative data to prove the validity of our arguments.
The Usual Suspects: Common Quoting Mistakes
either because of laziness or because "they think they can construct the author's ideas from memory (42).
because we lack confidence in our argument and writing skills or because "we don't fully understand what [we're] quoting and...have trouble explaining [meaning]" (42-3).
Letting Evidence Speak for Itself
: what the quote means to you is rarely what it means to your reader.
As Graff and Birkenstein point out: "quotations
: words needs to be integrated into their new textual surroundings" (43).
Pick quotations wisely, making sure they are "relevant passages" (43).
Don't just pick quotes at random:
Just because it is in the story and mentions the theme you want to discuss, doesn't make it the best example to use.
Pick evidence that is debatable and needs analysis.
Don't get locked into using the original quotes you selected
: quotes that appeared perfect during the planning stage often end up becoming irrelevant as your ideas and argument evolve through revision and rethinking.
Make sure that all evidence, whether it is a quote or a summary, helps prove your thesis statement.
Don't be a hit-and-run quoter
: as you're probably tired of hearing, all quotes need to be introduced. This is because they cannot speak for themselves.
Steve Benton calls quotes that are not properly introduced and/or analyzed
(44), because they have an impact and then avoid all responsibility.
Instead, your quotes should appear like this:
Man as self-proclaimed victim is a relatively new concern. Until recently, men were invisible in terms of power dynamics and victimization. As Sally Robinson notes in
Marked Men: White Masculinity in Crisis
“[i]nvisibility is a privilege enjoyed by social groups who do not attract modes of surveillance and discipline; but it can also be felt as a burden in a culture that appears to organize it around the visibility of differences and the symbolic currency of identity politics” (3)
Therefore, when women and minorities began to voice their concern over their place in society, they took center stage. Men, who may have also felt the burden of overcompensating in terms of acting powerful, began to see the symbolic power to be gained from occupying a victimized position. This is important in
The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly
when Bauby must admit he must depend on others for the simplest tasks: bathing, eating and communicating.
See page 46 for more examples
X states, "you've got to be impressed with all the quoting" (#).
According to Smith, "_________________" (13).
Jones agrees when she writes, "____________" (99).
Thompson disagrees, arguing that "______" (75).
Note the MLA citation style: when direct quoting, provide the quote and then follow it with the page number.
Make sure the punctuation appears after the citation:
"quoting here" (77).
See page 47 for more examples
In other words, Lucas believes _____________.
In making this comment, Grey suggests _____.
The essence of Morgan's argument is that ____.
Here, Hempel is implying that ______________.
Ok, I've explained it. How much is too much?
Too much explanation is always better than not enough.
The more complicated the passage, the more analysis/explanation is needed.
Your analysis should be
at least as long
as the quote you provide.
Be sure to comment on specific language and jargon.
Know your audience:
no need to explain plot or character details unless you are providing a new interpretation.
Paralleling the infusion of meaning that many patients find post-diagnosis, Walt also questions the fact that his limited life expectancy makes him less valuable as a person... Walt rejoinders sarcastically: ‘‘So my life is not the priority here because I’m gonna be dead soon anyway?’’ (episode 2.2, ‘‘Grilled’’). Rather than awareness of his finitude galvanizing him toward a legacy of doing good for others, Walt becomes more and more selfish, and he progressively weakens the argument that his actions are all taken for the good of his family.
A few problems above:
1. There is no evidence the author “intentionally” did anything;
2. Instead of focusing of Lewis’ points, this summary suggests the writer’s own side of the argument.
3. If you’re going to include another writer, let them speak before entering the discussion.
Lewis' point is valid in that family pride should be more important to White; however, I* suggest that he was not capable of being selfless, show genuine care about his family, even before his diagnosis. In fact, his illness does not transform him into a selfish person. Instead, it simply exacerbates an existing problem for a man who always felt emasculated by his routine, middle-class existence.
Graff and Birkenstein give an example of an ineffective, biased summary :
Bias Undermining Credibility
David Zinczenko's article, "Don't Blame the Eater," is nothing more than an angry rant in which he accuses the fast-food companies of an evil conspiracy to make people fat. I disagree because these companies have to make money" (32).
As they mention, this is "an unfair distortion," because Zinczenko's tone is never angry and he "never goes so far as to suggest that the fast-food industry conspires to make people fat with deliberately evil intent" (32).